The Reds have an abundance of major league starters under team control in 2011. Mike Leake, Homer Bailey and Travis Wood are not yet arbitration-eligible and Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. All except Wood, a 2005 second-rounder, ranked among Baseball America's top 100 prospects before they became prominent major leaguers. That's an entire rotation's worth of former top prospects and they're all still cheap.
Of course it takes more than five starters to get through a season. The Rays, who relied on their own quintet for the first four months of the year, are finding that out now that Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann have sore shoulders. Tampa Bay has more pitching depth than most teams, so they can call on Jeremy Hellickson and Andy Sonnanstine. Like the 2010 Rays, next year's Reds should have rotation depth.
They will be able to stretch out Micah Owings or call on one of three minor leaguers. Aroldis Chapman, who is now pitching out of the bullpen, has the potential to be a frontline starter, according to Baseball America. The left-hander has a 3.90 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9 at Triple A this year and has allowed less than one hit per inning pitched, though his command clearly needs work.
A pair of 26-year-old starters are pitching well at Triple A. Right-hander Sam LeCure has a 3.15 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 for Louisville and left-hander Matt Maloney has a 3.36 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. Those two starters won't make more than the MLB minimum in 2011 and even Owings (headed to arbitration for the first time) and Chapman ($1MM salary) are affordable.
That kind of depth means Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo don't have obvious roles on next year's club. Both veterans have $2MM buyouts for expensive 2011 options, and at this point, it's extremely hard to imagine the Reds picking up both options. The Reds are probably not going to pay $23.75MM to bring Arroyo and Harang back when they have so many affordable and potentially effective arms around.
It's easy to over-estimate pitching depth; injuries and unexpected performances can change plans. Arroyo, who has pitched well this year, would not re-structure his contract, but the Reds could decline his option and try to bring him back for less. The same goes for Harang, who has some value even though he has been hittable this year.
Harang's $12.75MM option isn't worth picking up and Arroyo's $11MM option is no bargain, either. It would be a major surprise to see the Reds bring both pitchers back, but they could re-sign one for depth. For now, that's the last thing the Reds are concerned about. Both pitchers will be part of the club's late-season push for its first playoff berth in 15 years.